Data: As Essential as Water
Much like the role water plays for living organisms, data can be an essential fuel for your business, but it must be collected, refined, and transported before it can deliver this value.
The business world is littered with synonyms for “connection.” Whether we’re breaking down silos, striving for synergy, or seeking alignment, working together more efficiently seems to always top our list of aspirations.
With this perpetual focus, you may think every avenue for increased efficiency has been exhausted. Yet, the more companies we work with, the more we realize a striking pattern of unused, siloed test data. Fortunately, people are finally catching on and looking to change this.
We’re increasingly brought into groups without any direct test function, like manufacturing, operations, and IT. Through these discussions, we see digital transformation as an opportunity to significantly improve the value and use of test. But to do so, we need to rethink test and how it integrates with the overall product life cycle and your enterprise.
The traditional view of test is as a cost, a step to be minimized or even avoided. How do you do the least amount of testing required to know your product is performing correctly? How quickly can you validate that a product meets design specs before going into production? How do you determine as fast as possible whether a product passes or fails in manufacturing? Traditionally, only these questions have been answered, and much of the underlying measurement data for test is effectively thrown away. We often hear about test data being in siloes, stored off somewhere for the sake of compliance or record keeping use but practically never used again.
Of course, these core mandates still hold true, but now test data has the added potential of showing not just if a product is not working, but why. This is increasingly valuable as products become complex systems of systems defined by sophisticated software, making finding the root cause of product performance increasingly difficult.
When you think about it, a specification based on a discrete set of parameters is a very rudimentary way to define the performance of a complex system—like a 5G transceiver. Instead, we need to be thinking of the role of rich data that can represent a product’s holistic performance. To do so we must be able to blur the boundary between the simulated world and the physical world—combining virtual simulation with actual measurements bidirectionally to improve our designs and our processes.
In a digitally transformed world, it’s simply unacceptable for test and measurement data to remain in unreachable silos. Imagine if Google threw away the data it used to provide your search results as opposed to continually amassing and learning from it, or if Amazon ignored all the underlying data behind product reviews. If that sounds wasteful, you should make sure that isn’t happening with your test and measurement data.
The goal is to connect all the data associated with a product through its entire lifetime; this means making connections across several dimensions:
By connecting the data representing all aspects of the product, we can use advanced analytics and machine learning to provide actionable insights across these existing boundaries that lead to real business value.
This isn’t an abstract concept. We’re helping companies do elements of this today, and we’ve found that they can get tangible and impactful value, halving time to revenue or root cause analysis by just connecting across one or two of these dimensions.
What’s clear to us is while many companies have similar grand ambitions for digital transformation, they’re all at very different stages. Some still have manual test processes in need of automation. Some are dealing with the test data silo problem and lack the ability to connect test with other product and process data. Some are ready to apply advanced analytics and machine learning or considering how to move to the cloud.
Digital transformation requires partnering, working across traditional boundaries, and thinking of problems in new ways. We’re excited to partner with you as we all advance our digital transformation journeys together.
To learn more about connecting test data across components, a product’s life cycle, and supply chains, attend NI Connect. You can register now for this live virtual event.
Subscribe to NI’s Next 100 and experience engineering greatness. New articles weekly!